FROMTHEEDITOR

On Trump and "The Blacks"

Donald Trump’s recent claim that “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks” has rightly earned him much ridicule, mostly for his anachronistic, and condescending, choice of terms.  Yet few critics seem to be asking whether the statement itself is true. A quick visit to the archives suggests otherwise.

“Trump Promises to End Race Bias,” ran a headline in the New York Times on June 11, 1975.  Written by Joseph P. Fried, a noted local reporter, the story detailed the agreement reached between the Trump Management Corporation and the Department of Justice regarding integration of the developer’s housing units. Two years earlier, the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division had charged the Trump outfit with discrimination in renting practices in its 39 buildings, which amounted to 15,000 units located in mostly middle-class areas of Brooklyn and Queens.

Trump denied the charges, but signed a consent decree. As Fried described it, he “promised not to discriminate against blacks, Puerto Ricans, and other minorities.” As Jack Newfield and Paul Du Brul explained in The Permanent Government (1981), Trump’s lawyer, the legendary McCarthyite Roy Cohn, helped engineer the consent decree. Trump was thus able to steer clear of prosecution under the Fair Housing Act by promising not to discriminate in the future.

According to Fried, a group called the Open Housing Center was responsible for the initial allegations against Trump. And Betty Hoeber, the group’s director, said that the agreement “looks very good.” But the developer seemed pleased, too. Not only had he escaped punishment, but he was also excited about the fact that there was “nothing in the agreement that would compel the Trump organization to accept persons on welfare as tenants unless as qualified as other tenants.”

In the Archie Bunker mentality, “welfare” was at the time synonymous with “the blacks.”  And so Trump was delighted to keep on discriminating, this time legally. Even if this chapter is now closed, the point of it remains: Trump has by no means always been on friendly terms with the city’s black population.

Contributor

Theodore Hamm

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